AMA! I’ve started self-funded and VC-backed SaaS businesses since 2003 including Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics, and Nira. Investor in 200+ others.

I'm Hiten, hnshah on Twitter.

Signed up for Twitter in 2006, lucky to be in the first batch of 5,000 users. I tweet about growing startups into businesses and the occasional gif or meme.

Founded three SaaS businesses (Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics, and now Nira. 200+ startup investments, countless failed products, 18 years later, ask me literally anything about startups.

My biggest monetary failure: In the early 2000s I lost $1 million trying to start a web hosting company that never ended up launching.

Fun fact about me: I’m obsessed with finding and curating the best content on the Internet for startups and businesses. So, I might reply to your question(s) with my favorite link that has the answer.

Ok, I'm ready to go. AMA!!!

  1. 6

    Are there any startup ideas you'd love to build but don't think you ever will? Or maybe something that you'd love to see somebody else build?

    1. 1

      Same question here

      1. 1

        I'm unreasonably into software ideas where the product has potential to spread because of it's usage. Messaging and social media products are two consumer categories of such products. In B2B, typeform, calendly, mailchimp, etc... are at the top of my head. That's where I would skew the problems I'm looking to solve if I were starting something new today.

  2. 3

    Two quick ones, if you don't mind :)

    1. What industries do you foresee with the greatest growth potential in 2021?
    2. What's your top 3 top pieces of advice for new investors?

    Thanks for doing this!

    1. 2
      1. I have no idea how to answer this question today. DeFi is probably what a lot of people would say right now. Probably for 2021 and beyond.
      2. Top three pieces of advice, 1) follow up after meetings 2) be thoughtful when you say no 3) get to a yes/no quickly, especially a no
  3. 3

    Just wanted to say thanks for all the entrepreneurial content you’ve put out over the years that has both helped and motivated me to reach $20k MRR as a solo founder 🙂

    You write and send a lot of really good emails.

    What’s your process of writing/testing them to maximize their effect? Do you use an email writing template/framework?

    1. 3

      Thanks for sharing that. I'm super happy to hear it!

      Think like the reader. Make sure it's super-valuable or very entertaining. Make sure it flows. Don't overthink the first version, just start writing. Don't choose the subject till the end or it'll make writing harder and the end results not as great. Ruthlessly edit until it sings. Simply put, do the work. Put in the effort, for the sake of your readers.

  4. 2

    No question, but just wanted to shout out to Hiten for being one of the more authentic founders out there on social media. Several times I have sent him DMs or messages and gotten an almost immediate reply. I even got one of my conversation snippets quoted on a site of his one time.

    I've reached out to other founders with far less of a track record of achievements or social media presence in the past with no response, so it is nice to have someone genuine that you can feel that you can relate to among us.

    1. 2

      Appreciate the kind words.

  5. 2

    Thanks for taking time out to do this, Hiten!

    Two questions:

    1. In today's day and age, do you think there is a need to take VC money and related pressure (have to scale to a billion $ outcome etc.) Considering that tech company costs are essentially developer salaries, would you recommend bootstrapping?
    2. In your 18-year experience, if you can, what is the one thing that makes it phenomenally difficult to build a high money-making tech product?
    1. 3
      1. No, you do not need to raise money. Self-funding is great too. I've done both. Every endeavor that can be started self-funded, should ideally be started self-funded unless the founders have super easy access to capital. Key is to start de-risking the business asap. Not for investors, but for yourself.
      2. How fast your software needs to evolve (and stay competitive, if not innovative) in order to meet and exceed customer demand and expectations.
  6. 2

    Hello Hiten! Thanks for taking the time to do an AMA!

    In your opinion what are the most common mistakes founders make when deciding what problem their product should solve?

    1. 2

      They don't identify or at least have a hypothesis on who the ideal customer is or at least the specific "job to be done" (if you're into that instead of personas) for the product.

  7. 2

    I just found this after I posted a question to the community, I would love to read your thoughts about this product https://www.indiehackers.com/post/business-formation-taxes-compliance-on-subscription-feedback-a5d4a5f5ec

    1. 1

      Can you be more specific about what questions you have for me? I don't share my opinion on ideas. I care about what you've learned about customers.

  8. 1

    Thanks for letting us ask Hiten.

    Have a few questions,

    1. How to deal with getting cold feet before starting up?
    2. For the earliest round of funding, do you need to show a working product or your vision?
    3. People recommend having a co founder you personally know, I saw one answer about finding people on Twitter/LinkedIn. How does one know who can be right fit? Apart from their passion for the idea.
  9. 1

    Thanks Hiten! My products used CE and KM and we had interacted briefly online a long time ago. Appreciate everything you have done and are doing in the startup space.

    It seems that every vertical/ product space is crowded. Are incremental improvements on existing products enough or do entrepreneurs have to create something totally different to stand out and get customers?

    In another answer you mentioned "Not SaaS". If not SaaS, then which venture would you pursue?

  10. 1

    if you had to start from scratch, what venture would you pursue first?

    1. 3

      I would look for the simplest business model on the Internet that I could find, with the least amount of moving parts. Not SaaS.

      1. 1

        For your new follower can you ElI5 ;) thanks!

  11. 1

    Hello Hiten,

    Thanks for doing this!

    I have a few questions:

    1. Did you ever embark on a project with a team that "didn't work out". How did you deal with the situation?
    2. When a project fails, what do you do?
    3. Do you have advice on how to find co-founders for a project for someone without a solid entrepreneurial network?
    4. What's your approach to discover problems worth solving?
    5. How do you validate ideas?
    1. 3
      1. Like a business person. Objectively and rationally. Using facts, not opinions.
      2. Write a post-mortem, learn the lessons and do better next time.
      3. Twitter. Reddit. LinkedIn. Start using the platforms and ask for what you need. But make sure you're also providing value in whatever ways that you can.
      4. Get people to tell you stories about their biggest challenges, frustrations and/or annoyances.
      5. Build, measure, learn. Core lean startup strategy, adapted for each situation.
      1. 1

        Thanks for these insights!

  12. 1

    Can you share some of the SaaS that you are following and have a potential to become very big?

  13. 1

    What advice would you give to a startup trying to get their first 10 customers?

  14. 1

    What do you think is the best way to get your first few companies onboard in a b2b saas app?
    (I can find interested individuals on reddit and launch sites, but people with teams seem more elusive)

    1. 1

      If you've got a solution to a problem that have which they want solved, you won't have much of a problem getting them onboarded. Would spend all your energy on identifying the thing you can solve for people that makes them want to try and buy.

  15. 1

    With two well-established companies that must have loads of dev staff do you ever spin new startup projects out of the existing companies? do they share anything between the two or are they fully separate?

    1. 1

      Each of my companies is separately operated.

  16. 1

    You must run into a lot of serial founders like yourself, what is the general success rate ratio for you and the folks you have invested in - hits versus misses? Do you do a real post-mortem on the ones that fail to understand why? Are you still involved in Crazy Egg and Kiss Metrics or did you exit?

    1. 1

      Hi! My wife Amee runs Crazy Egg. It's a self-funded SaaS business that's been around since 2005 and has a headcount of less than 20 people. They quietly do their thing over there and I'm still an owner in the company. I formally left KISSmetrics in 2012. So haven't had much to do with it in quite some time. Was there during the early days when we built the brand with the multi-colored sideways heart logo. You can say that was "my era" of the company. Since they rebranded back then, I can't say I had have any significant level of impact there. I don't think any of the people who I meet that have done startups for some time even think about their hit rate. It's too painful and counterproductive to think about the past for too long. I highly recommend post-mortems and have done countless ones for the misses, usually as soon as I can get myself to do it. I have shared parts publicly too. Such as in this article: https://producthabits.com/my-billion-dollar-mistake/

  17. 1

    Hi Hiten,
    Thanks for doing this!

    I know you're well know at PH.

    1. Maybe you were there from the start?
    2. How much time did you spend on PH to get that notoriety, and was it worth it?
    1. 2

      I've been a user for a long time. I just like using some products, was early and invested countless hours early on. Didn't think too much about it. Just been online since the days of BBSes and I gravitate to communities that interest me.

      1. 1

        Makes sense, thanks!

  18. 1

    First of all, thanks for doing this!
    What do you think about The Lean Startup (Eric Ries)?
    What advice would you give to someone who wants to help (tech) founders with there startups?

    1. 1

      The lean startup principles are now embedded in most of the startup culture. I am grateful for what Eric Ries shared and spread into the global startup community. I don't know if we would be where we are today without his efforts.

      If you want to help tech founders, I would go do some customer development and figure out what they really really need. What their biggest challenges are. Would do this with a very open mind. Then really dig into what you hear, get some detailed stories about their most challenging problems. Find the patterns in what you heard and then once you do that start thinking about how best to solve their most challenging problems.

      1. 2

        Thanks for the advice! 🙏

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